Primavera Sound 2012 Part 5 02/06/2012

Now there are very, very few "bloke with guitar" acts I can be arsed with but there's something about Mangum; it's his phrasing, the folk-inspired intervals, the dynamics of his vocal melodies as much as the words. He is at once voice and instrument.

SATURDAY

Seems to be a lot of fairly interchangeable looking folky pop opening the regular stages, so we take a flyer on ASTRO on the Adidas, not least because we want to support the new bands not listed in the guidebook. Clearly enjoying their new Adidas gear the local four-piece kick off with monkey noises: it's the kind of feel-good tropical-flavoured pop (albeit with ridiculous 80s powerpop synth sounds) that would probably be quite annoying in a dark venue back home, but sat by the sea under another cloudless sky is just right. To be honest it goes in one ear and out the other, but the atmosphere down here is lovely: this festival may well to a certain extent be ATP with sunshine but it's also much more than that. Watching local bands by the sea with a mostly local crowd is all part of the fun.

Soon though the combined anticipation of a cardboard bowl of fresh hummus and toast, the relaxed terrace just a wire fence away from the sea, and some "krautrock" have lured us to Pitchfork. The hummus is as good as anything you'd get in the best deli back home; ATLETA do wonderful monochord grooves with just drums, synth drone and a heavily looped guitar. Oh, and we have cold beer too. Does life get any better than this?

Well, I suppose we could be sitting comfortably in an air conditioned and beautiful theatre, ready for a rare solo peformance by JEFF MANGUM... And by the magic of Primavera, we are...

You are one man and one guitar in a huge theatre space - how do you instantly create an intimate atosphere? By inviting people to come forward. From our vantage point half way up it looks like he switched on a huge electromagnet or something as people pour down the aisles, even onto the stage, and settle around the storyteller. Now there are very, very few "bloke with guitar" acts I can be arsed with but there's something about Mangum; it's his phrasing, the folk-inspired intervals, the dynamics of his vocal melodies as much as the words. He is at once voice and instrument. Two-Headed Boy and The King of Carrot Flowers are received like holy mass, whilst Holland, 1945 - the greatest vocal pop song ever written outside of the constraints of verse / chorus / instrumental break structure? - is still heartstoppingly magnificent.

Full marks too to the festival's crowd control set-up; we're back in the main festival site in minutes and even get to catch a couple of songs from GIRLS NAMES - to whose quality embittered indie we'll be returning, we hope, in the park tomorrow - before ATLAS SOUND. You're never quite sure exactly what Bradford Cox is going to do: on this occasion it's start with "a traditional song from my country" - Your Cheatin' Heart. That confuses people. His set is lovely, though - part sweet shoegazey ballads, part warpy guitar wonderfulness.

Atlas Sound

BEACH HOUSE have an early slot at the beach rave AKA Mini Stage. Torn between these and Demdike Stare, but decide to take a chance on a band I've not seen before. They are the most French sounding band ever, despite being from Baltimore: polished, slightly shoegazey, gauze-and-pastels dreampop, but rather uninspiring. Our mates appear with a desire to see OFF! and I divert the party into ATP for DEMDIKE STARE because it's on the way - result! We then end up trying to explain the Pendle Witches in a nutshell to our Catalan and US-born friends... (no! - Ed)

On an unlit stage, just projections and blackness, the Lancashire duo create often beatless ambient doom techno that in itself could suck the light from any room. It is bleak, weird and mildly disconcerting. On a festival stage, at 10pm on a Saturday night. Incredible. Only at Primavera. They do something that sounds like a spaceship throbbing into warpdrive. Nobody knows whether it's possible to dance to it. One brave soul gives it his best shot... It twists and vibrates like machinery. There's a definite nod to black metal's stormclouds in there. This is properly fucked up, a serious trip. Brilliant.

We continue on to OFF!. By the time they come on, we're eating vegan chorizo pate on spelt bread using as a picnic mat a map of the city on which persons unknown have drawn a large pentagram. It is gloriously inappropriate to be having a picnic in front of a harcore punk / metal crossover band. Then the singer - possibly "tired and emotional" - delivers a five minute sermon / rant eulogising Jeffrey Lee Pierce (as you do) before explaining that the reason stoner doomsters Sleep cancelled their Thursday appearance is that one of them, Matt Pike, had just suffered an aneurysm, which is all a bit much to take in (a few days later a announcement issued by Pike's other band High On Fire stated that he had entered treatment for alcohol rehabilitation). Then it's back to hardcore punk metal business like nothing happened. We shake our hair around for a bit.

We catch a few tracks of ST ETIENNE - our only main stage visit all weekend. There are pretty clouds of candyfloss discopop, I don't know exactly which songs, but it's like a little sorbet to cleanse the palate between courses. We're off to see the house band. Yep, it's SHELLAC time. Sometimes Primavera is like going face down in a pic'n'mix. Albini et al play some wilfully uncommercial musical rambles and he becomes the second person (after Mark Burgess; see "McCulloching", although in Albini's case it's two lines in the middle of a possibly relevant semi-spoken address) this weekend to quote Joy Division's Transmission. From thereon in, my recollections are at best hazy.

Shellac

We watch and enjoy GODFLESH. We stuff ourselves with crepes and churros, and then more churros. MUJERES, probably the biggest Catalan band in the world right now, rip up the Vice stage with some real garage punk rock'n'roll; a triumphant homecoming and a privilege to see this. WASHED OUT live up (or down) to their name; surely this whole "chillwave" (equals neutered, bland electrogaze) thing is over now? THE POP GROUP also live up to their name, ironic as it originally was back in 1978; their psychedelic retro-futurist post-punk jazz rave being exactly what you need to re-energise when it's 2am and you've been out for five days. She is Beyond Good and Evil is outstanding.

The Pop Group

The last thing my camera remembers is a packed Ray Ban amphitheatre sprinkled with coloured lights like multi-hued sherbet for NEON INDIAN, though I confess I don't.

 

http://www.myspace.com/atletabcn

http://walkingwallofwords.com/ (Mangum)

http://www.myspace.com/girlsnames

http://4ad.com/artists/atlassound

http://www.beachhousebaltimore.com

http://soundcloud.com/demdike-stare

http://offofficial.com

http://www.saintetienne.com/

http://www.touchandgorecords.com/bands/band.php?id=22

http://www.godflesh.com

http://www.myspace.com/mujeresdebarcelona

http://thepopgroup.net/